WASHINGTON - As the United States forges closer ties to India, Pakistan is turning towards Russia, a leading American newspaper reported, calling the move "a budding partnership that could eventually shift historic alliances in South Asia."

In recent months, The Washington Post noted, Pakistani military and political leaders have reached out to Moscow, seeking to warm ties that have been frosty since the Cold War. In November, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu visited Islamabad and signed a military cooperation agreement with Pakistan, which is now hoping to finalise plans to buy three dozen Russian Mi-35 helicopters and more closely coordinate efforts to counter terrorism and narcotics.

Pakistan also wants Russian assistance to stabilise chronic energy shortages, the Post said in a dispatch from Islamabad.

"The moves come as Pakistani leaders grow increasingly nervous that their traditional alliances could erode, if not crumble, in the coming years," the newspaper said, obviously referring to the warming Washington-Delhi ties. "For much of its history, Pakistan has been an ally of the United States, while Russia had stronger ties to India, even backing it during that country’s 1971 war with Pakistan. But now that most NATO troops have left next-door Afghanistan — and the Pakistani army is straining to overcome militants on its western border — officials here fear that the United States’ regional interest is tilting toward India, Pakistan’s eastern neighbour and archrival."

“Of course we are concerned,” one unnamed senior Pakistani military leader was quoted as saying. “The balance of power is being tipped toward India, and that is not good, and it’s been done with the help of the Western world. That is why we are looking at various markets, because conventional [military] parity is the only recipe for peace and stability."

Pakistan’s efforts to kindle ties with Moscow come as relations between the West and Russia continue to worsen, which may prompt it to look for new trading partners in Asia, according to the Post. Pakistanis are also worried the Indian army is moving toward dominance in the conventional arms race, the dispatch said.

Those concerns were "magnified" this week when US President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi vowed to strengthen cooperation on defence and energy matters, and they announced a deal that they said should smooth the way for American companies to invest in Indian civilian nuclear plants.

“To be very honest, we think Obama has gone one step too far,” Maria Sultan, chairwoman of the Islamabad-based South Asian Strategic Stability Institute, was quoted as saying.

In another sign of the unease, the Post noted Pakistan’s Army chief Gen Raheel Sharif travelled to China last weekend to solidify long-standing military and economic ties between the two countries. China is Pakistan’s largest arms supplier, having sold or transferred it nearly $4 billion in weapons since 2006, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), which monitors arms sales.

The United States, with about $2.5 billion in arms sales to Pakistan over the past nine years, is the country’s second-largest arms supplier. In December, Congress also authorised $1 billion in additional funds to Pakistan for its continued support of counter-terrorism operations. But it is unclear how much American aid will flow to Pakistan in the coming years.

Tasnim Aslam, spokeswoman for Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Pakistan doesn’t want to “put all of its eggs in one basket.” “It’s a multi-polar world, and it’s in our interest to engage all the poles and forge relationships,” said Aslam.

Noting Secretary of State John Kerry had a productive visit to Islamabad two weeks ago, Aslam said Washington shouldn’t read too much into Pakistan’s outreach to President Putin. But some Pakistani lawmakers offered a more pointed view of Pakistan’s rapprochement with Russia.

“Pakistan’s historical mistake after its inception was to establish close ties with the United States but to ignore the Russians,” Haji Muhammad Adeel, a lawmaker who chairs the Senate’s foreign relations committee, was quoted as saying. “We went to war with Russia in Afghanistan, and that brought us gifts of terrorism, extremism and drugs. Now Pakistan is trying to forge friendly ties with Russia to correct the mistakes of the past.”

"Despite that outreach, it remains unclear whether Pakistan’s efforts to bolster ties with Russia will pay off," the report commented.